- Associated Press - Monday, October 27, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and his Democratic challenger Brad Hutto disagreed, but did so politely as they met for the first time to discuss the issues at a business forum Monday in Columbia.

The 45-minute question-and-answer session was sponsored by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. Independent Thomas Ravenel and Libertarian Victor Kocher weren’t invited. Here are some things that were discussed.

HEALTH CARE

The sharpest disagreement came on the new health care law backed by President Barack Obama. Hutto said it has flaws like any legislation that tackles a big problem, but they can be fixed. He said he was proud that this country is no longer a place where people could go bankrupt simply trying to stay healthy.

“We cannot go back to a time where we didn’t have safeguards in the system that protected people who didn’t have insurance,” said Hutto, a state senator from Orangeburg.

Graham said while there are a few good things in the law, like allowing people with pre-existing health conditions to get insurance, most of it is a disaster meant to take health care out of private hands and into the government’s realm.

“It’s never been about being insured. It’s about single-payer plan liberals dream of,” Graham said. “I’m going to go back and fight like hell against it.”

Hutto said Graham’s positions ignore how broken the health care system was before Obama was elected.

“He wants to go back and fight it. I want to go up there and fix it,” Hutto said.

HIGHWAY MONEY

Graham said more money needs to be spent on roads across America. He suggested a one-time deal reducing the amount of tax companies have to pay on profits from overseas and putting that money into roads through the highway trust fund.

“The highway trust fund is a great opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to break gridlock and create jobs, because we all win because we all drive on roads and bridges,” Graham said.

Hutto said America could free up more money for roads by spending less overseas in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. He said Graham’s concentration on those places at the detriment of South Carolina is one reason he needs to be voted out of office.

“It is time for this country to invest in itself,” Hutto said.

BIPARTISANSHIP

Both men said they would work with the opposition party if elected. Graham pointed out each of his opponents in this year’s Republican Party were angry because they didn’t think he was conservative enough.

“One of the reasons I had six opponents is because I reach across the aisle. I don’t think we can find a way to solve America’s problems without at least talking to Democrats,” Graham said.

Hutto pointed out he is well known at the South Carolina Statehouse as someone who can talk to Republicans and reach agreement on sticky issues, like how the state should handle the federal education standards like Common Core.

“I don’t believe compromise is a bad word,” Hutto said.

MY OPPONENT IS A GOOD GUY

“I respect him. I like him,” Hutto said of Graham. “He’s a good man - we just have disagreements about things.”

Graham, who refused to debate convicted felon, reality TV star and former treasurer Ravenel because he didn’t want to turn the race into a circus, said he felt the same about Hutto, who will return to his state Senate seat if he loses.

“Brad’s a good guy,” Graham said. “He’s done a good job in the Statehouse and we’ll keep him there.”

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP

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